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Poster: adamelijah Date: Apr 20, 2010 10:56pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Charlie Chan-Are Any of These Really Public Domain

There are four Charlie Chan movies listed in the Archive:

http://www.archive.org/details/CharlieChansSecret1936
http://www.archive.org/details/CharlieChansSecret

http://www.archive.org/details/CharlieChanInDarkAlibi
http://www.archive.org/details/TheGoldenEye
http://www.archive.org/details/TheTrap

Now, here's what has me asking the question. I'm not a lawyer and I can't figure out if films before 1950 are in the public domain, but I've got a simple system that gives me a clue if a movie's public domain or not and that's Amazon.

Those films that are in the public domain tend to be available from multiple publishers, search for DOA or Nancy Drew Reporter and you'll see what I mean. Search for Nancy Drew Troubleshooter and you'll see limited results.

If these films were public domain, it does seem like somebody would be selling them for $4.00 a pop. Because of that I'm curious whether they are public domain.

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Poster: Video-Cellar Date: Apr 21, 2010 1:26am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Charlie Chan-Are Any of These Really Public Domain

The films were published without copyright notices. They were subsequently registered for copyright. However, the lack of copyright notice render the registrations invalid and the movies public domain.

There are many PD films that have yet to make it to video or DVD. This could be because of the lack of available prints, high costs of transferring films to video, lack of interest or demand. There has also been some decline in the distribution of PD films that were originally produced by hollywood studios. There are lots of copyright movies that have many releases on different companies. So amazon.com, or the DVD market in general, is not the best way to test a films PD status.

It is not uncommon for a small number of entries a series to enter the PD in the USA:

There were 8 Mr Moto movies and 1 is PD
There were 14 Sherlock Holmes movies and 4 are PD
There were 4 Nancy Drew movies and 1 is PD
There were 45 Charlie Chan movies and 4 are PD

Less than 20% of all movies registered for copyright were ever renewed and that doesn't take into account films that fell into the PD through other failures to comply like the Chan movies mentioned.


This post was modified by Video-Cellar on 2010-04-21 08:26:31

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Poster: Moongleam Date: Apr 21, 2010 6:47pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Charlie Chan-Are Any of These Really Public Domain

| Less than 20% of all movies registered for copyright were ever renewed
| and that doesn't take into account films that fell into the PD through
| other failures to comply like the Chan movies mentioned.

So at least 80% of the movies made between 1930 and 1960 are PD?

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Poster: Video-Cellar Date: Apr 21, 2010 8:34pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Charlie Chan-Are Any of These Really Public Domain

Less than 20% of all films registered 1896-1963 were renewed for lots of different reasons:
-No films made before 1915 were renewed
-Major studios did not routinely renew until their 1925 films came up
-Monogram and PRC did not renew pictures until their mid 40s releases were due.
-Many indie studios (Chesterfield, Tiffany) never renewed their pictures at all.
-Some major studios have almost entire years of production in the 30s, 40s and 50s that lapsed into PD due to clerical or financial problems (eg. MGM [1951 season], Universal [1942, 1947], RKO [1931], various Hal Roach Studios 1940s, Fox [1946] etc).
-Many films were not renewed by the studio who bought the film and remake rights (Farewell to Arms, A Star is Born, etc)
-Most pre-1950 UA films were not renewed.

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Poster: HappySwordsman Date: Apr 21, 2010 12:00am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Charlie Chan-Are Any of These Really Public Domain

Well, but not always. I could think of several films confirmed to be Public domain that aren't even on DVD yet, and some of them feature major stars.